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The word “addiction” is often used to refer to any behaviour that is out of control in some way. People often describe themselves as being addicted to, for example, a TV show or shopping. The word is also used to explain the experience of withdrawal when a substance or behaviour is stopped (e.g., “I must be addicted to coffee: I get a headache when I don’t have my cup in the morning”).

However, experiencing enjoyment or going through withdrawal do not in themselves mean a person has an addiction.

Because the term “addiction” is commonly used in such a vague way, there have been many attempts to define it more clearly. One simple way of describing addiction is the presence of the 4 Cs:

  • craving

  • loss of control of amount or frequency of use 

  • compulsion to use

  • use despite consequences.

Why Do People keep Using Substances?

Substance use can be hard to change. One thing that makes change so difficult is that the immediate effects of substance use tend to be positive. The person may feel good, have more confidence and forget about his or her problems. The problems caused by substance use might not be obvious for some time.

The person may come to rely on substances to bring short-term relief from difficult or painful feelings. The effects of substances can make problems seem less important, or make it easier to interact with others.

The person may come to believe that he or she cannot function or make it through the day without drugs. When the person uses substances to escape or change how he or she feels, using can become a habit, which can be hard to break.

Continued substance use, especially heavy use, can cause changes in the body and brain. A person who develops physical dependence and then stops using may experience distressing symptoms of withdrawal. Changes to the brain may be lasting. These changes may explain why people continue to crave the substance long after they have stopped using, and why they may slip back into using.

What are the signs & symptoms of a​ddiction?

There are two important signs that a person’s substance use is risky, or is already a problem: harmful consequences and loss of control.

Harmful Consequences
The harms of substance use can range from mild (e.g., feeling hungover, being late for work) to severe (e.g., homelessness, disease). While each time a person uses a substance may seem to have little impact, the harmful consequences can build up over time. If a person continues to use substances despite the harmful consequences, he or she may have a substance use problem.

The harms of substance use can affect every aspect of a person’s life. They include:

  • injuries while under the influence

  • feelings of anxiety, irritability or depression

  • trouble thinking clearly

  • blackouts

  • problems with relationships

  • spending money on substances rather than on food, rent or other essentials

  • legal problems related to substance use

  • loss of hope, feelings of emptiness

Loss Of Control
Some people may be aware that their substance use causes problems but continue to use, even when they want to stop. They may use more than they intended, or in situations where they didn’t want to use. Some people may not see that their substance use is out of control and is causing problems. This is often referred to as being in denial. This so-called denial, however, may simply be a lack of awareness or insight into the situation. Whether people realize it or not, lack of control is another sign that substance use is a problem.


Substance Abuse and Addiction (Canadian Mental Health Association)
Kids & Drugs: A Parents Guide to Prevention (Alberta Health Services)
Are You Prepared To Help Your Teen Make Good Decisions (Parents Action On Drugs)




2335 Dougall Avenue, Windsor, ONT, N8X1S9
Phone: 519-253-2441
Located in the heart of Windsor Ontario, Brentwood is a non-denominational recovery home that has served over 20,000 men and women primarily from Windsor and Essex County; however clients come from all over Canada and the United States. The facility is set on nine acres with three main buildings and a pavilion. It is staffed by 37 employees including certified counsellors and medical staff. The Brentwood Recovery Home is dedicated to providing compassionate care and treatment in a residential setting for people whose primary problem is alcohol and drug abuse. In addition, Brentwood provides vital support programs for their families. At Brentwood, we see alcoholism and other addictions as a disease and form of "spiritual blindness". People need other people who are in recovery to help them to see what they are missing in their lives.


Free telephone, chat, and email services
Drug and Alcohol Helpline: 1-800-565-8603
Mental Health Helpline: 1-866-531-2600
Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline: 1-888-230-3505

Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at Connex Ontario. Connex Ontario provides free, confidential, and anonymous information about drug and alcohol treatment services across Ontario. Connex also has telephone helpline numbers for mental health and gambling problems.

Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7, national support service. We offer professional counselling, information and referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support to young people in both English and French. Whether by phone, text, mobile app or through our website, you can connect with us whenever you want, however you want. Our service is completely confidential and you don’t even have to tell us your name if you don’t want to.

1400 Windsor Ave., Windsor, ON N8X 3L9
Phone: 519-973-4435

In an effort to respond to the mental health and addiction needs of our community especially given the anxiety, fear and uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) with partner the Canadian Mental Health Association, Windsor-Essex County Branch (CMHA-WECB) have opened the Mental Health and Addictions Urgent Care Centre (MHAUCC). The MHAUCC is a central access point for adults or youth aged 16 years or older who cannot safely wait for community mental health and addiction support. The service is intended for those experiencing a mental health or addictions crisis or who are having an acute and serious need who are at risk of worsening mental health condition that may require hospitalization.

Phone: 1-800-811-3887

The primary service provided by Narcotics Anonymous is the NA group meeting. Each group runs itself based on principles common to the entire organization, which are expressed in NA literature. Most groups rent space for their meetings in buildings run by public, religious, or civic organizations. Individual members lead the NA meetings while other members participate by sharing about their experiences in recovering from drug addiction. Group members also work together to perform the activities associated with running a meeting.

Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, 3740 Connaught Avenue, Windsor, ON  N9C 3Z4
Phone: 519-257-5220
Designated assessment and referral center in Windsor-Essex for persons in need of an addiction intake and access to treatment for addictions - alcohol and/or drugs. This program is staffed by two Social Workers who are proficient in the use of the Ministry of Health Admission Discharge requirements.

33 Princess Street, Leamington, Ontario, N8H 5C5
Phone: 519-258-2146 ext. 1200
Public health programs keep our community healthy by promoting improved health, preventing disease and injury, controlling threats to human life and function, and facilitating social conditions to ensure equal opportunity in attaining health for all.

1005 Ouellette Avenue, Windsor, Ontario, N9A 4J8
Phone: 519-258-2146 ext. 1200
Public health programs keep our community healthy by promoting improved health, preventing disease and injury, controlling threats to human life and function, and facilitating social conditions to ensure equal opportunity in attaining health for all.

1995 Lens Avenue, Windsor, ONT, N8W 1L9
Phone: 519-254-5577

Services and support for sexually abused adults/children, Provide medical and legal examinations, medical treatment / psychological support to the victim, Photographic documentation of injuries, Referral to appropriate community agencies, Follow up by Domestic Violence nurse, Education to the community, SAFEKIDS is a program which provides a medical evaluation for sexually victimized children and their families, Services are provided by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), Compassionate, professional response available 24 hours a day through Windsor Regional Hospital - Emergency Room.

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